Government

Truss shuffled out of Environment Secretary role

Former Environment Secretary Liz Truss
Environment Secretary Liz Truss has been given the role of Justice Secretary as Theresa May reshuffles her cabinet following her appointment as Prime Minister.

Truss has taken over the job vacated by the ousted Michael Gove, almost exactly two years after being appointed to head the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

During those two years, Truss oversaw the continued flatlining of England’s recycling rates, and the waste and resources industry was largely side-lined by the department, as she prioritised farming and food production. Indeed, in the past year, Truss’s only public mention of waste policy was to pledge to ‘crack down on waste cowboys’, those illegally operating waste transfer and disposal services, through on-the-spot fines, at last year’s Conservative Party Conference.

This was swiftly followed by an announcement that fixed-penalty notices (FPNs) for fly-tippers would be introduced following a government consultation into waste crime enforcement, and from 9 May this year local authorities have been able to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £400 to those caught illegally dumping waste.

Despite her focus on food production, Truss never mentioned the growing issue of food waste, which was raised by MP Kerry McCarthy’s Food Waste (Reduction) Bill, introduced to Parliament in September. The bill was given a second reading but, to date, has not received it.

Further, Defra received intense criticism in February this year when a five-year plan for the department barely mentioned the resource industry, once again reiterating its hopes to tackle waste crime. Steve Lee, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), which represents waste management professionals in the country, called the omission ‘highly disappointing’ but ‘not surprising’, while Resource Association Chief Executive Ray Georgeson was moved to write to Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee to express his ‘serious concern’ about the ambition for and interest of Defra in the industry.

Truss’s replacement is yet to be announced, nor has it been confirmed if Resources Minister Rory Stewart will be given a new role in the reshuffle. Check back throughout the day to get the latest on changes to the Defra personnel.

Rudd promoted as DECC faces uncertain future

Another name that is on the move is former Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, who has taken over May’s role as Home Secretary.

Rudd had been in the top job at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) for just over a year, after being promoted from a Parliamentary Under Secretary in the department.

Reports have suggested that Rudd’s role will not be filled, and that instead DECC is to be abolished and merged into the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, which has lost its remit for international trade to a newly-formed department.

Theresa May’s environmental credentials

The Resource Association last week called for the waste and resources industry to find new ways to collaborate to ensure that it is well-represented in policy as the new political landscape in the UK takes shape.

Given that May has remained largely silent on environmental issues in the past, and has generally voted in line with the party Whip on environmental laws, it is difficult to predict what approach the new Prime Minister will take in relation to sustainability and waste management, or even the environmental sector more generally.

Statistics from theyworkforyou.com, an online source that provides extensive lists of the voting history of all MPs, shows that in the past May has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.

May voted against the requirement of a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry and against setting a decarbonisation target for the UK. She did, however, vote in support of the Climate Change Bill in 2008.

In 2015, May acted in support of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) when she voted against greater regulation of fracking and against the requirement of an environmental permit for fracking activities. May also consistently voted in support of selling England’s state-owned forests, as well as in support of culling badgers to tackle bovine tuberculosis.

While May’s voting history implies she is not overtly environmentally driven, she was praised by the Executive Director of ‘Friends of the Earth’, Andy Atkins, for the role she played in driving the 2008 Climate Change Bill through Parliament and into law.

May said at the time: “I am thrilled to see that after years of Conservative pressure, we have finally passed a necessary and ambitious piece of legislation on climate change. Britain is the first country in the world to formally bind itself to cut greenhouse emissions, and I strongly believe this will improve our national and economic security.”

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